Dictionary.com defines a workaholic as a person who works compulsively at the expense of other pursuits.
Well, we all know the American Dream. Some of you may know the Immigrant Success Story. Hustle culture is alive, well, caffeinated, or coked out. Some people live on protein shakes & others get cancer due to stress or sleep deprivation. Many of us in America define ourselves by our careers and cheer over the hours, lives, and stakes dedicated to making maximum profits. This modern life is all-motivational and super-empowering, at least in the commercial.
The reality alongside the grind is the need to keep up with higher costs of living and housing, inflation with stagnant wages, lack of comprehensive employee benefits, and inefficient health infrastructure. As of June 2022, a LendingClub report stated that 61% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck – up 6% from a year ago. Add the insecurity, paranoia, and paralysis that occurs in a society without enough mental health resources to accommodate our demanding lives & yeah, we got issues.
It seems if we’re not already obsessed with work, it’s the need to make ends meet that could seal the fate. (But when is fate truly sealed?)
The “Workaholic” badge carried a sense of pride before my patterns of self-neglect caught up with me in the depths of quarantine. A notable therapy moment from 2020 was my dedicated therapist posing the question after I told her I was applying to another job. “Can you do less?”
What do you mean “do less”?
I heard it like it was a new language, and it was because my body and mind were used to accepting work without hesitation & without considering its toll on my personal resources. I was used to pursuing colorful avenues across a wide selection of interests from poetry to human rights to agriculture and fitness. Also, I had duties to my family and friends that, of course, were urgent priorities. There was always so much to do, and I would be the one to do it happily or not. Why? Because I’m a good daughter/sister/friend/cliché.
After leaving my last handful of jobs due to panic attacks, constant headaches, and growing lack of focus, it became clear that the problem wasn’t the job as much as it was about me & how I chose to embrace and approach my life. It wasn’t about who I had around me but how I defined my boundaries and self-care regimen. By July 2022, when I couldn’t work more than one hour in front of a computer without getting a migraine, I declared my sabbatical.
Then one week into my escape, I ran back to my computer to work ten times a day.
Compulsively, automatically, and happily, even when my head was throbbing and my eyes were sore, I eagerly clicked through my First Aid and CPR Certification course to volunteer for OC Parks; I researched firearms safety and laws; and I looked up my favorite nonprofits to see if they’re hiring.
I realized then that this is my sabbatical, and I choose to use this time to rest, return to my passion and priorities, and build foundations for my self-actualization. Taking this sabbatical means catching up on my personal to-do list and, instead of reverting to my natural tendency of approaching my tasks, taking it with a balanced and joyful approach. I was not only restructuring my life’s framework but also relearning how to move with confidence and ease rather than a race to the finish.
All that to say, I will pursue my interests & still get my rest. I will prioritize the work that makes me happy & still help others. I will keep working & don’t have to be a workaholic.
But how though?
It’s a journey and a process. I’m creating boundaries, and this includes boundaries with myself. Coping mechanisms lurk & my tendency to rush and act too quickly sits eagerly rubbing her hands. This is a reminder to slow down in a major way.
Check in next week to hear about my partner and me staying at an off-grid farm to, can you even believe it, rest and relax.